Video Game Reviews

Here's where I keep track of video games I have played. I rate the games on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being "highly recommended" and 1 being "forget this game and go read a book or something."

Shardlight on PC (9/10)

Shardlight

Wadjet Eye continues their run of solid point and click adventures with their latest, Shardlight. This may be their best looking and best sounding game yet. You play as Amy Wellard, a member of a lower caste in a city recovering from a nuclear-scale bombing. On top of the misery of scavenging for food and dealing with the iron rule of "The Aristocracy," you also have caught a case of the green lung for which vaccinations are in short supply. The plot is pretty linear and avoids that open, branching middle that adventure game devs of yore seemed to love. Really, we are just here for the story anyways and, at times, even puzzles get in the way of that.

Technobabylon on PC (8/10)

Cyber-club in Technobabylon

Wadjet has produced another solid point and click adventure game that makes up for its somewhat lackluster predecessor, A Golden Wake. This one is a sci-fi, cyberpunk thriller in which there is a killer on the loose "mindjacking" his victims' memories.

I never quite understood the appeal of cyberpunk. My experience in the genre is limited mostly to The Matrix movies and a fruitless attempt to play Neuromancer on the Apple IIgs.

Half Life: Opposing Force on PC (7/10)

Half Life: Opposing Force

Opposing Force is a welcome improvement over Blue Shift. First off, it's feels like a full game rather than just a bunch of new levels. It's nowhere near as developed as a modern shooter, but there's a little bit of a story to follow. Half Life was much lauded for its story, but, in hindsight, there really wasn't much there. Opposing Force doesn't even have that minimal level of depth, but there's enough there to push you towards your goal which, as always, is to get the hell out of Black Mesa.

Half Life: Blue Shift on PC (6/10)

Blue Shift Screen

I am finally getting around to playing the Half-Life 1 expansion games. As expected, this is more of the same. This time around playing as a security officer who is caught up in the Black Mesa incident. Once again, you are trying to get back to the surface. There aren't any new game play mechanics (that I can see), and aside from a couple of references to Freeman, the story here doesn't really tie into the main narrative.

Guacamelee! on PC (8/10)

Guacamelee! Screen shot.

This is what the kids call a metroidvania-style platformer (what a horrible term). You run around around a large, open-world and gain access to new areas as you upgrade to new powers. I tried to play Super Metroid on the Wii, but I don't think I had the patience for that older game. Guacamelee! on the other hand was very accessible. The movement is fast and fluid with easy fighting mechanics.

Defense Grid 2 on PC (7/10)

Defense Grid 2

The Defense Grid sequel seems more like an expansion than a new game. There are new powers and customizations, but core game remains the same; build towers and watch them mow down a seemingly endless stream of baddies. In fact, with the new upgrades, I think this may be easier than the original. I suppose the challenge really is in the alternate game modes where you a limited to certain spots or specific towers. Given the choice, I think I prefer the first game and its simple character-study story. This one tries to up the narrative ante by adding several voiced characters, but it just gets confusing and incoherent. The game still works as a casual strategy game that can be played in small doses.

Tales from the Borderlands on PC (10/10)

Tale from the Borderlands

Like previous Telltale series, this is not so much a game as it is an interactive cartoon. Yes, to a degree, player choices don't matter, and all paths seem to lead to the same destination (as far as I can tell). However, there is far more variation and consequence than most point and click adventures offer. In hindsight, adventure puzzles, as fun as they sometimes are, only hinder storytelling and don't help you live inside a character's head the way the Telltale dialogue system does.

The Wolf Among Us on PC (9/10)

The Wolf Among Us

After The Walking Dead (especially season two... which I apparently forgot to review. Well, it was great.), I was pretty much sold on the Telltale choose-your-own-adventure game formula. These games are really like watching a TV show in which you're forced to pay close attention to what's going on and have a say in how the characters interact with eachother. So far, the stories and characters have been engaging and satisfying.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on PC (8/10)

GTA: San Andreas

Coming off of FarCry 3, I really wasn't sure I wanted to commit myself to another massive open-world game, but San Andreas was there in my bin of unplayed games calling to me. The GTA formula, like war, never changes: huge open world, lots of driving, violent gangster themes and general mayhem. I really wish the stories were more compelling, but they tend to get lost in the huge scope of the game. Personally, I have no nostalgia or interest in Southern California gangsta culture and music. In light of the never-ending murder in Chicago, it's a hard sub-culture to glamorize without feeling icky. I was able to set that aside and just enjoy exploring the map and all it's diversity.

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